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The district attorney’s experiment with guilt-by-association prosecutions appears to be over.
Back in March, I wrote about Aaron Harvey, a young man with no criminal record who was being charged, along with a group of other men from his neighborhood, with conspiracy connected with a series of gang shootings. The problem was that the DA didn’t think Harvey had anything to do with the shootings themselves, or that he even knew about them. The DA’s argument was that Harvey was a member of the same gang as the shooters, and was therefore guilty simply by being part of the same group.
Harvey says he’s not a gang member at all. Regardless, a judge tossed the charges against him and several others for lack of evidence.
At the time, the DA knocked the community that had supported the young men and the media (aka me) for writing about the case:
“It’s unfortunate that in spite of the evidence transparently available in the court record and court’s rulings that clearly establish their active gang membership during the time of the shootings, the media and community has allowed itself to be manipulated by individuals who are misrepresenting their true level of gang involvement.”
Got that? Multiple judges, members of the media, community, you were all hustled.
That’s what made DA Bonnie Dumanis’ statements to KPBS this week so surprising. Of the obscure law she used to charge the men – the first time it had been used in a substantial way anywhere in the state – she said: “Well, I think that, first of all, it was, uh, we used it. It was a novel use. Having listened to the community, we’ve decided not to use it, anymore at this point.”
I guess the community knew what it was talking about after all.
What VOSD Learned This Week
Fact Check has always been one of our most-read and most explosive features. After a bit of a slowdown in Fact Checks over the last couple months, we had two this week that shed light on narratives we’ve been tracking for a while now: water rate hikes, and the school district’s plan to promote neighborhood schools.
Ry Rivard found that Oceanside’s proposed water rate hike would be much higher than the notice they sent to customers lets on. (Speaking of water rate hikes, Rivard also offered some realtalk on the likelihood that residents can rise up and stop them from happening.)
Mario Koran found that San Diego schools are still heavily segregated despite integration efforts, but they’re not more segregated than when those efforts began back in the 1960s.
Then there’s Liam Dillon’s effort to unravel the facts in a sexual harassment case once brought against Rafael Castellanos, who’s running for city attorney. This wasn’t a Fact Check piece, but Dillon did vet what Castellanos has said publicly about the case and weigh it against all the evidence he was able to track down.
Just like Fact Checks, the number of op-ed pieces we run each week tends to ebb and flow. This week, we had an opinionsplosion that included arguments for what the county should do to protect the most vulnerable from El Niño, why Prop. 47 is having unintended consequences that are harming communities, that CEQA offers opportunities for the disenfranchised to challenge the powerful and why folks shouldn’t restrict their gifts to nonprofits.
For a long time now, Scott Lewis, Mary Walter-Brown and I have been scheming to give nonprofits in San Diego the VOSD treatment – to explain how they work and the challenges they face, and to turn an investigative eye on that world. We’re pumped Lisa Halverstadt is going to take on that role. As she wraps her mind around the nonprofit world, she’s delivered a couple posts laying out the landscape: what we know about nonprofits in San Diego, and the biggest nonprofits in the county.
• Smaller cities around the county are being forced to make some big decisions as they attempt to implement climate action plans.
• A few decisions made by San Diego Unified officials have curbed the number of school choice spots available, but the program itself is not going anywhere.
• Affordable housing advocates are frustrated that some of the Legislature’s marquee bills this session died or got put on hold.
• Careful out there: It’s the most dangerous time of year for pedestrians in San Diego.
• Councilman Chris Cate shows up in the Culture Report and on this week’s podcast, talking about his district’s beer bona fides. (Cate also said during his interview with Kinsee Morlan that he is not a fan of Kanye West, so please shame him accordingly.)
What I’m Reading
• I’m no longer at the point in my running career where I fret about pace and breathing in my head. But I still liked this piece on what we think about while we’re running. (New Yorker)
• A gorgeous essay on the absurd questions we ask childless women. (Harpers)
• I am not exaggerating when I say New York Times Magazine reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones’ story on how a phenomenal young student was handicapped by her name is so incredible it gave me chills. (Longreads)
• We see a lot of good journalism that uncovers the shady practices of many for-profit colleges. Now an investigation zooms in on the accreditation agencies that keep them in business. (ProPublica)
• A black software engineer at Twitter explains why he quit his job over the company’s resistance to making changes that would diversify its largely white workforce. (Medium)
• My new hero: The anti-corset, pro-masturbation, pro-cake-baking pioneering lady doctor mentioned in this fun piece exploring suffragette cookbooks. (NPR)
Line of the Week
“Blah, blah, blah, and wake me up when you have something to say.” – L.A. Times columnist Steve Lopez’s unimpressed reaction to a bureaucratic explanation of why children are being forbidden from running in a public park.